What is a Faculty Learning Community?

A faculty learning community (FLC) is a group of trans-disciplinary faculty, graduate students, and professional staff group of size 6-15 or more (8 -12 is the recommended size) engaging in an active, collaborative, semester-long program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning.

The structure of such groups includes frequent seminars and activities that provide learning development, scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building.

Evidence shows that FLCs increase faculty interest in teaching and learning and provide safety and support for faculty to investigate, attempt, assess, and adopt new methods.

Faculty learning communities are more structured and intensive than most approaches that gather together a collection of faculty to meet and work on teaching and learning issues. For example, a participant in an FLC might select a focus course or project to try out innovations, assess resulting student learning, and prepare a mini-portfolio to show the results; engage in triweekly seminars and retreats; and present project results to the campus.

Faculty Learning Communities at the TLC

The Teaching and Learning Center currently helps facilitate a number of short-term (2 month) Learning Communities for members of the Wake Forest faculty. These groups often involve the reading of a common text which serves as the basis for discussion and inquiry.

TLC sponsored learning communities have included a group for new faculty exploring the challenges unique to inexperienced instructors, a learning community exploring the new research critical of student learning in higher education, a group examining the science of leaning and its implication for instruction, and a learning community exploring the challenges of teaching critical thinking skills.

These learning communities usually meet on a biweekly basis. Participants review their common text, ask questions, and share experiences and expertise. Learning Communities are a mechanism for self-directed professional development. Such groups are guided by faculty’s own expertise and inquiry, rather than outside voices. In addition, they provide community and support for faculty on a continual rather than one-time basis.

Teaching With Technology Learning Community

Faculty who are exploring new instructional technologies would be an ideal group for a full-scale, semester-long faculty learning community. The challenges of experimenting with new technologies can be daunting; not only in mastering the technology itself, but more important in discovering the technology’s implications for course design and instruction. In addition to providing support and community, such a group would work to develop a mechanism for assessing student learning and determining if instructional outcomes are being met. In short, a faculty learning community would be a place for faculty to gain expertise while sharing experiences and challenges.

Such a group could consist of faculty members, ITG’s, the TLC’s Director and Instructional Developer among others. Guest speakers and outside experts could also be called upon. A possible choice for the common text of the group could be Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, by Dee Fink (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000). Such a text would ensure that the group’s focus remains on teaching and course design, rather than simply on the technology itself.

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